The Canary Islands are a very unique part of Spain and Europe. So distant and exotic, yet so close out of all exotic places in the world. Geographically part of Africa, politically part of Europe. The Canary Islands are an autonomous region of Spain, but there are unlike anywhere else in Europe. They are separated from mainland Spain by 1700 km in a straight line, which translates into about 5 hours of flight by plane from Madrid and two days spent on a ship when we decide to travel by sea. I lived in one of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria for few years and I was lucky enough to visit each of them quite well. Therefore, I thought that I would put together as many interesting facts about this unique place as I can. Let’s dive into 25 tidbits of the Canary Islands.
ONE REGION TWO CAPITALS
The Canary Islands is the only region of Spain with two capitals. The archipelago is divided into two provinces. On the one hand, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which includes the islands of La Palma, El Hierro, La Gomera and Tenerife. On the other hand, Las Palmas, which includes Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.
The Canary Islands are part of an archipelago of volcanic origin that was created by the constructive action of volcanic activity in the ocean. Fuerteventura and Lanzarote were the first to emerge from the sea; El Hierro, the last one. The Canary Islands are also the only region in Spain where there is active volcanism. The last volcanic eruption took place on the island of La Palma in 1971.
THE BEST CLIMATE IN THE WORLD
The Canary Islands have won many rankings for the best climate in the world for several years. The summers here are not too hot and the winters are very mild. I would rather not call it winter at all. These mild temperatures, without great fluctuations throughout the year, make the Canary Islands the islands of Eternal Spring. In 2006, the Australian traveler portal recognized Las Palmas de Gran Canaria as the city with the best climate in the world!
THEY WERE NOT NAMED AFTER THE CANARY BIRD
The origin of the name of the Canary Islands is not fully known. There are several theories that try to explain their origin. One of them says that the word Canary ) comes from the Latin word canis, meaning dog. The first colonizers gave them such name because of the large number of wild dogs they encountered on the islands. It is a myth that the islands owe their name to a well-known bird – the canary.
NUMBER OF ISLANDS IN THE ARCHIPELAGO
It is commonly believed that the number of Canary Islands is 7, but as of 2018 their official number is 8. There are still 5 smaller islands that are not inhabited and even have a special name in Spanish – islote. As of 2018, La Graciosa has been officially added as the eighth island of the archipelago. Until now, it was considered not so much an island, but an islote located very close to Lanzarote. Other small islands, or islotes, are Isla de Lobos near Fuerteventura and the 4 islands of Montaña Clara, Alegranza, Roque del Este y Roque del Oeste, which are collectively called the Chinijo, which means small in Canarian.
THE SMALLEST HOTEL IN THE WORLD
What does the smallest hotel mean? It is one that has only four rooms and provides unique views and its location is amazing. It is located on the island of El Hierro. It is a unique place for many reasons, it is situated right on the seashore, built with a rocky tongue. Each of the four rooms has a view of the Atlantic Ocean and on the ground floor there is an excellent restaurant specializing in Canarian and Mediterranean dishes with the freshest fish and seafood. The hotel is called Hotel Punta Grande. A few years ago, he was dethroned by a hotel in Copenhagen. However, Hotel Punta Grande was called by this name for many years since 890. It was also registered into the Guinness Book.
THE LARGEST BOTANICAL GARDEN IN SPAIN
Jardin Canario is located in Gran Canaria, near the largest city and the capital of Las Palmas. Despite its small size, the Canary Islands have an amazingly flora, and many species of plants and wild flowers only grow here. In total, over 500 endemic species can be encountered, many of which can be seen in the largest botanical garden in Spain, which is located in Gran Canaria. The garden spreads over a huge area of volcanic gorge. You can easily spend a few hours here viewing the more beautiful species but it’s best to go down to the lower entrance and slowly return to the top. In Jardin de Canario, both native species and those imported from around the world grow together.
THE OLDEST RUM FACTORY
We are still in Gran Canaria and from the city of Las Palmas we go north to the city of Arucas, because it is here where is located the oldest rum factory in Spain. Arucas is a rum production center – in the Arehucas factory you can see, among others, barrels signed by King Juan Carlos or Julio Iglesias. The tour also includes a free rum and liqueur tasting. The Canary Islands are also the only region of Spain that produces beer, wine and rum.
THE HIGHEST POINT IN SPAIN IS LOCATED HERE
El Teide, the highest point of Spain is located in Tenerife and is one of the greatest symbols of the Canary Islands. It is an active volcano with summit of 3718 m above sea level and a height of about 7500 meters from the sea bottom. It is the highest peak in Spain and the highest peak on any Atlantic island and is also the third largest volcano in the world from its base. Together with entire caldera called Las Cañadas forms the Teide National Park.
Nowhere in Spain, or even in Europe, carnival is celebrated so loudly as in the Canary Islands. It is the Canarian carnival that is compared to the second one after the most famous in the world Brazilian carnival. Celebrations are held in a slightly different way on each of the seven islands of the archipelago. Gran Canaria and Tenerife are fiercely competing for the title of the carnival capital. One year in advance, in each town, the theme of next year’s carnival is selected, for which beautiful, multi-colored costumes are designed, dances are prepared and lyrics are arranged. I wrote more about the Canarian carnival here.
THE LARGEST NUMBER OF NATIONAL PARKS
The Canary Islands are home to the largest number of National Parks out of all Spain. There are four of them: Timanfaya Park in Lanzarote, Garajonay in Gomera, Caldera de Taburiente in La Palma and finally the largest and most visited National Park in Spain, –Teide National Park in Tenerife. All four are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. I visited all of them and it is difficult to choose the best one. All of them provide an unique, lunar and volcanic landscape.
In the Lanzarote’s Timanfaya National Park, there is El Diablo restaurant, where dishes are prepared on a volcano. Literally, the grill on which the food is prepared is powered by the heat of an active volcano. Like many places in Lanzarote, the restaurant was designed by Cesar Manrique. The restaurant offers unique volcanic landscapes
WINE FROM LANZAROTE
One of the best wines that is grown on volcanic soil. There you will find the most exotic vineyards in the world. Mainly moscatel and malvasia strains are grown here. The most famous wine region in Lanzarote is La Geria, but all over the island you will find many wineries where you can try different wines and buy bottles to go.
THE OLDEST GOLF COURSE IN SPAIN
After eating and drinking, it’s time to do some sport. It is in Gran Canaria that the oldest golf course in all of Spain is located. It is now 129 years old and was founded in 1891. The Real Club de Golf is located along the volcano crater with amazing views of the summit, the sea and spectacular deep gorges.
BEST PLACE FOR SURFING
The Canary Islands are a paradise for lovers of water sports. There are great conditions for practicing water sports on each of the islands, but especially in Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria, there are many world-famous surfing competitions.
The Canary Islands are one of the most spectacular diving destinations in the world. The underwater world of the Canary Islands is very varied and full of beautiful and unique landscapes. The water is so crystalline as you can see in the picture above, that its visibility is up to 30 meters. The water is always the same temperature, around 20 degrees, which allows you to dive all year round.
El silbo gomero or the language of whistles comes from the island of Gomera, it was used by the inhabitants of this island to communicate over long distances in mountain gorges that are difficult to reach. The language is also on the UNESCO Intangible World Heritage List. The sound of the words is imitated with whistling noises of different heights.
The Canarian language has many words not found in other regions of Spain, such as guagua, cholas, chacho, etc. Another feature of Spanish in this region is that it is spoken only in the third person. Form you is not used here.
THE BIGGEST DUNES IN SPAIN
The largest dunes in Spain, where it is very easy to feel like on a desert are on the island of Fuerteventura. Dunas de Corralejo are located on the east coast of Fuerteventura. There are many beautiful beaches there. Other popular and beautiful sand dunes are Dunas de Maspalomas in the south of Gran Canaria.
FILMING LOCATION FOR MANY HOLYWOOD MOVIES
Due to the unique landscape of the Canary Islands, many very popular movies have been made in the Canary Islands. As an example, The Fast and the Furious, and many Spanish films such as Palm Trees in the Snow and Pedro Almodovar’s Interrupted Embrace.
The Canary Islands have the first self-sufficient island that is 100% renewable – El Hierro. Announced by UNESCO as the “Biosphere Reserve and Geopark”. Renewable energy is widespread in all Canary Islands. The airport on the island of La Palma was the first to obtain its energy entirely from renewable energy.
THE WORLD’S WORSE AIRPLANE CRASH
The world’s worst aviation accident occurred on the island of Tenerife in 1977. The most catastrophic accident in the history of passenger aviation occurred when two Boeing 747’s collided on a foggy airport runway. Neither plane was supposed to be on Tenerife, but they were diverted from Gran Canarias when a bomb was detonated on the runway. The airport had many more aircraft than it could handle, and couldn’t fit all the planes at the gates. The accident led to a number changes in how plane crews and flight control towers communicate.
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS AND DISCOVERING OF AMERICA
When visiting the Canary Islands, we will quickly notice that the stories of Christopher Columbus and America often appear there. In the capital of Gran Canaria Las Palmas is even home to his museum, where you can learn about the history of discovering the New World. The Canary Islands were the last port in Europe for Christopher Columbus and his crew before embarking on the long voyage to America. Columbus spent almost a month on the islands, mainly in Gomera and Gran Canaria, thus using this time to supply and repair ships before continuing his journey.
And until here comes the facts that I thought might be interesting or surprising for you guys. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.